BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian Kurdish-led forces said Monday their ant-terrorism unit, with U.S.-led coalition support, killed five suspected Islamic State group fighters in a raid to break up a militant cell in Syria’s east.
The Syrian Democratic Forces unit carried out the joint operation with the international coalition near Busayrah, a village in the eastern countryside of Deir el-Zour province. It targeted a “dangerous IS cell” based on intelligence and reconnaissance of their presence in the area.
The militants opened fire at the raiding force, which had besieged the area, the SDF said in a statement. The force responded, killing five suspected IS members, it said. The operation came after attacks against the local administration and security forces.
There was no immediate response from the U.S.-led coalition.
Activists and a war monitor reported the raid, suggesting civilians were among those killed.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war, said the raid was conducted with aerial support from U.S.-led forces. It targeted a wanted IS member who fled as the SDF force arrived and was shot dead while fleeing on his motorcycle. The Observatory, which relies on a network of local activists, said the force then captured the father of the wanted suspect and his brother and shot them dead outside their home.
The Euphrates Post, a media group covering eastern Syria, said a man and his two sons had taken cover in their farm house barn during the two-hour raid and were targeted for refusing to hand themselves in. Another group reported clashes before the man and his sons were killed.
There was no immediate response from the Islamic State group.
IS has been active in the desert area of east and central Syria since losing control of territory in Syria in 2019 following a military campaign by Kurdish forces in collaboration with the U.S.-led coalition.
Thousands of militants hiding in the deserts of Syria and Iraq have since carried out attacks on government targets and Kurdish forces as well as military posts and oil infrastructure.
Deir el-Zour province is also rife with residents’ discontent. Despite its oil resources, the majority-Arab province remains one of Syria’s most impoverished and its residents accuse the Kurdish-led administration of discrimination.
A resident of the area said Busayrah had been under a security lockdown since Friday evening following an attack on an SDF checkpoint in which a civilian was killed, setting off an angry response from residents that turned into a gunfight.